The Key Facts About RPE Or Rate Of Perceived Exertion?

October 24, 2017
The Key Facts About RPE Or Rate Of Perceived Exertion?

Have you ever heard the term RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion? This is where the intensity at which you exercise is rated, based on a number scale out of 1 to 10. This scale is derived from the Borg rating system of RPE.

What it entails is measuring your perceived exertion rating on a scale of 1 to 10. We will get into this rating system later on in the article. How this works is perceiving how hard your body is going to work (or is working) during your workout. This is what is known as perceived exertion.

In order to calculate this, you will assess certain physical sensations that your body is feeling. The following are examples of these sensations:

  • Respiration increase
  • An increase in your heart rate
  • Sweat levels increased or intensified
  • Muscle fatigue or failure

A workout plan that has been generated will have a Rate Of Perceived Exertion next to the exercise. This is the exertion level that should be applied to the workout. However, this measurement is subjective, as the person performing the exercise at this intensity level might feel their RPE level is lower or higher than what is prescribed for the exercise.

Understanding Your Rate Of Perceived Exertion

As mentioned above, the RPE that is set out for the exercise is the intensity level at which it should be performed. So for example, if the RPE set out for the exercise is 5, but you feel that your level is in fact a 3 or a 6, then you will be performing the exercise at this level.

It is important to continuously perform self monitoring of your intensity levels and the physical sensations you experience as a result. This will help you with future exercises and the level at which you should be performing them.

The Borg rating system is an odd one to say the least. It is a scale that ranges from 6 – 20. However the scale that is most commonly used in the fitness industry is a scale of 1 – 10.

The Borg system is based on taking the heart rate of a healthy young adult and multiplying it by 10. An example of this would be if your RPE is 15 (on the Borg system), the your heart rate should be 150 beats per minute.

Why RPE Is Important During Your Training?

Understanding Rate of Perceived Exertion

The importance RPE during your training is to ensure that you are receiving the maximum training results from your exercise. So if your exercise is the bike machine and the target of the exercise is to loosen the muscles, then your RPE will be low. Subsequently, if your target is to burn fat, then your RPE will be higher.

The same goes for weight lifting or body building. The RPE scale below, shows the intensity of the weight that you should  be lifting. Results generated, will be subject to the focus and target of the exercise or set that is to be performed.

A firm grasp of your RPE, will allow you to adjust your training levels and intensities for your goals. A person looking to develop their hiking endurance, would do a self monitoring assessment of their different RPE levels.

In order for them to become stronger at something, they would need to increase their RPE level from a 4 to a 5 for certain exercises. The same can be said for increasing weight lifting capabilities.

Rate Of Perceived Exertion Scale

Below is an example of a general RPE scale that ranges from 1 to 10. The scale includes intensity levels for fitness training and weight training. This scale is a guide only, as their are many institutions and health industries that will have their own version of it.

Scale For Fitness Weight Training
1 Extremely Light Intensity Very Light
2 Light Intensity Light
3 Muscles Start Working Moderate
4 Sweat & Breathing Increase Average
5 Heart Rate Increase Above Average
6 Muscle Burn Triggered Weight Becomes Heavy
7 Increase Muscle Burn & Breathing Rate Weight Level Increase
8 Heart Rate, Breathing & Sweating Increase Weight Is Heavy
9 Muscle Fatigue & Heavy Breathing Struggle To Lift Weight
10 Maximum Exertion Maximum Failure Reached

Using this scale will give you an understanding of the levels at which you can train. Remember that this scale is a guide only. However it is useful as a visual aid to see the different levels look like side by side.

Remember to always self assess your RPE levels throughout your training regimen. This will help you progress further, by adapting your training style and intensity to suit your respective goals.